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Treatment for narcolepsy will depend on how serious your symptoms are. For cases of mild narcolepsy, managing your sleep might be enough to keep your condition under control. In more serious cases, medication might be needed.

Our online doctors can assess your symptoms, confirm a diagnosis and recommend the best possible treatment. In most cases, they will suggest one of the following courses of action.

Managing sleep

Sometimes, taking control of your sleep habits can help with sleep disorders such as narcolepsy. To help reduce your symptoms, you can try:

A consistent sleep routine

Consistency with your sleep can mean that your body adjusts to a particular cycle, so you’re less likely to fall asleep at an inconvenient moment. Try:

  • Going to bed at the same time each night.
  • Getting up at the same time every morning.
  • Taking naps throughout the day. A sleep specialist can help you fit these around your routine and plan your naps for around the same time each day, or before important events.

Creating the right environment for sleep

By helping yourself sleep at night, you’re less likely to be sleepy in the day. You can do this by ensuring your sleep environment makes it as easy as possible to nod off. This can be achieved by:

  • Using thick curtains or an eye mask to block out light.
  • Using earplugs to block out noise.
  • Keeping your room at a comfortable temperature.
  • Investing in a good mattress and comfortable bedding.
  • Not having electronic devices such as TVs, phones and laptops in the bedroom, as these can disturb your sleep.
  • Relaxing in the hour or so before bed.
  • Avoiding caffeine in the afternoon, as it takes a few hours to work its way through your system.
  • Avoiding exercise too close to bedtime.

Medication

If your narcolepsy symptoms are severe and affecting your quality of life, you might be prescribed medication to manage your condition. Not all of these medications have been designed specifically with narcolepsy in mind. However, they have been shown to treat many of the symptoms.

The following medicines are all used to manage narcolepsy symptoms. Our doctors can explain how they will help and how you should take them, as well as outlining any potential side effects before providing a prescription.

Stimulants

How do they help?

Stimulate your central nervous system to keep you awake.

Possible side effects

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Stomach ache
  • Insomnia
  • Mood changes
  • Weight loss
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart palpitations

Antidepressants

How do they help?

There’s still plenty of debate about how useful antidepressants are for people with narcolepsy. What we do know is that some patients have found them helpful for dealing with certain symptoms, such as cataplexy, sleep paralysis and hallucinations.

Antidepressants are thought to alter the chemical balance of your brain in a way that lowers the amount of time spent in the REM stages of sleep. This stage is what causes many of the problems for narcoleptics.

Possible side effects

Antidepressants can also cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking them suddenly. If you’re prescribed them, you should stick to the dose and schedule provided by the doctor.

Sodium oxybate

How does it help?

Sodium oxybate has been shown to help with symptoms such as cataplexy and insomnia, making it a potentially useful to combat daytime sleepiness.

It needs to be taken in two doses at night time, so it may mean you have to get up during the night. You should NOT mix sodium oxybate with alcohol, and you should also avoid driving or operating heavy machinery after taking it as the medication is designed to cause drowsiness.

Possible side effects

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness and blurred vision
  • Diarrhoea
  • Weight loss
  • Wetting the bed

Help and support

As narcolepsy remains so poorly understood by the general public, it can be hard to talk about. You might feel quite isolated and the condition can really put a strain on your mental health.

Finding someone to talk to about it can help. While this won’t get rid of your narcolepsy, it can make you feel like you’re not alone and it’ll feel like less of a burden.

Some people find that confiding in a friend or family member can help. Not only will they have a better idea of what you’re going through, you can even explain to them what your triggers are, so that they are able to help you if needed.

Others find that attending a support group and discussing their narcolepsy with other people who share their experiences is the more rewarding.

Can narcolepsy go away on its own?

No, it’s a lifelong condition. It needs to be carefully managed with the help of a medical professional to ensure you can keep the symptoms under control and enjoy a good quality of life.

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